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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Techniques for tea

The Vietnamese family Thi Anh in the Tai Nguyen province, depends already twenty years on tea production (2.500 m) and a bit on animal husbandry. The tea tree was bad, they did not know how to apply the techniques well. They applied too much or too little manure. Because they processed the tea manually the production was not much, around 30 kg per month.

Mrs. Mai Thi Anh explains that now they are much more experienced in tea. “We received technical assistance from the Vietnam National Farmers Union (VNFU) and have drying and curling machines. The work load is reduced a lot. Production has increased, we can now process 300 kg of tea per month. Our work is more efficient. We can get a loan from the Agricultural Development Bank using the VNFU’s name as collateral.

The technical support is very important to us, it has improved our lives. Also the support of VNFU in producing compost is very important, because now we can produce safe tea which is better for our health. Our economy has improved, every member of VNFU has a television, machines, gas cooker, and a concrete house. It is important to involve women in training, they now have technical knowledge and can share their experiences with men”.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Market linkage transforms fortunes for mango growers in Kenya

The example of the Mavindini cooperative in Kenya illustrates how a cooperative has initiated and facilitated the way out of the cotton crisis for their members by joined reflection, study tours, by their potential to attract more important traders and by their ability to immediately provide adapted extension services (whereas the official extension services mainly bring the general messages on classic crops). The membership remains however quite limited up till today, indicating high thresholds to access for vulnerable farmers.

“A member of Mavindini multi-purpose cooperative in South Eastern Kenya tells about a special evolution in his life and within the cooperative. The cooperative was formed in 2002 to improve the production and marketing of cotton (at a time when the cotton sub-sector was declining). Active membership shrunk to 69 (51 men and 18 women) and the cooperative couldn’t provide inputs anymore. Sons and daughters of many farmers went to work in big towns in Kenya and parents became dependent on their remittances. Support to the cooperative started in 2006 and facilitated a reflection between the farmers on possible ways to improve their livelihoods, insisting on opening their minds for alternatives. Options were limited because the area is regularly affected by drought. The cooperative decided to explore the collective marketing of mangoes as an alternative. 8-9 months of intensive seminars and a market orientation study visit to fruit exporters and processors in Mombasa took place. One exporter expressed interest in making a business deal with the cooperative. He offered a price of 10 shillings per piece of mango, 7 shillings more than the price paid by local middlemen. Unfortunately, only ten farmers had maintained their trees to the standards of the exporter. Therefore the cooperative supported to provide extension services for the maintenance of mango trees. In 2007, 46 additional farmers managed to sell to the exporter and in 2008 another 158 farmers joined. The member expects to earn 300,000 shillings in 2008 from mangoes compared to 40,000 shillings in 2007. He states: ‘I didn’t realise that a farmer can earn more than people who are employed in the big cities. I am now better off than many people there’.”

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Not proud, but happy nevertheless

Mandala Somakka is a member of the recently founded Dairy Cooperation, which is a joint initiative of (among others) the Indian development organisation GRAM and the IIMF (an organisation for rural women and female dairy farmers).

The IIMF started as savings and credit cooperation, but has recently begun endeavors to become a ‘producer company’ in the field of dairy and related products. Since 2007 Agriterra has supported the IIMF in this process.

Mandala Somakka has been a member of a so called self help group (SHG) for 9 years. These SHG’s in turn, are members of a MACS (a group for savings and loans). Mandala has been a member of a MACS for 5 years. Both the SHG’s as well as the MACS are supported by the GRAM and the IIMF.

Mandala claims to be 45 years old and has 3 children, two sons and a daughter in the age of 35, 27 and 25 respectively. In reality it is very likely that Mandala is a fair bit older than 45, given the age of her eldest. (It is not uncommon for local women in the area not to know their own age.)

In the past, the economic situation of Mandala and her family was not quite so positive. This has changed since she became involved in the self help group, the savings and loans group and a milk project with water buffalos through the dairy cooperation. The family does not own land, but they do have seven water buffalos, which are herded by her husband. The buffalo milk produce provides the family with a regular income, turning Mandala from a poor landless farmer into an independent dairy farmer.

Mandala tells us that initially she and the other women had quite some trouble convincing their husbands that they should be able to engage in activities outside the family home. Thanks to women’s joint effort and determination, all husbands have eventually accepted the fact that they cannot control their wives. Now that the women are generating extra income for the family with their dairy project, the husbands are delighted. (Mandala’s daughter is also involved in the project, she tells us.)

Thanks to the milk project, Mandala’s life has undergone significant changes. “In the old days I used to work on the land owner’s land, for very little pay and I was the servant of my husband and sons. Now I have my own cattle and I am the leader of our milk project. I feel like a person now, respected, not only by my husband and children, but also in my village”.

Is Mandala proud of all the things she has achieved? “I am not proud, but I am happy”. It is her dream to buy her own land, to grow vegetables on. She also whishes for a good future for their children and for them to be able to pursue their own dreams.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Challenges in Burkina Faso

Support to collective marketing systems of farmers in Burkina Faso (for ten years) has increased its scale and decreased vulnerability of the members. The combined support for agriculture productivity, marketing and for improved access to credit through the Union des Groupements pour la Commercialisation des Produits Agricoles de la Boucle du Mouhoun (UGCPA-BM) has been crucial for the success. The membership base is still relatively weak in terms of numbers however, and hasn’t been able to break the vulnerability circle of doing business individually with local private traders by a good part of the non members. Despite good progress, the cooperatives have not reached economic viability yet.


“In Burkina Faso, the Union des Groupements pour la Commercialisation des Produits Agricoles de la Boucle du Mouhoun (UGCPA-BM) brings together products from 1.550 small scale farmers (1050 women and 500 men). The marketing involves mainly dried grains, sesame and bissac. The success took off, thanks to an integrated economic approach which includes marketing and an annual credit line of 500 million CFA, strengthening of the warehouse systems and extension services to members. This has made them strong players in the market and allowed them to decrease farmers’ vulnerability to market fluctuations. UPA-DI is only one of 6 donor programs that UGCPA-BM benefited from and thus the success cannot be fully attributed to UPA-DI. An evaluation in 2006, points clearly out the advantages of being member of UGCPA-BM: by having direct payment when delivering grains to the warehouse; proximity of the warehouse; equipment to clean grains; possibility to sell small quantities of grains; possibility for supply during hunger periods. Also for Bissap there were important results. The production has increased from 1.6 tons in 1996 to 40 tonnes in 2007. The production is bio-certified with efforts of the organisation, which gives access to European markets and to better prices for the product. However, the membership is limited to about 1.500 farmers, meaning that the majority of farmers isn’t member of UGCPA-BM. Reasons of the relatively low membership numbers, are the fact that many of the farmers are still only producing for subsistence and don’t have surplus for the warehouse. Secondly, the fact that some farmers are bound to private traders, from which it is difficult to escape, limits membership. Another challenge is the financial sustainability of UGCPA-BM, not reached yet in 2006.”

Monday, January 5, 2009

A traditional raincoat for tourists

Mrs Chao Su May is farmer in the Lao Cai province in Vietnam. She also collects medicines from the forest, sells medicines and receive guests in home stay. Mrs Chao Su May gives a glimpse inside her life.

When I was 13 there was no paved road to Sapa town. I got up at 3 a.m. and walked 40 km (10 hours!) to the market in Sapa, where I sold medicine. As we had no torches at that time, we used burning wood to find our way in the dark. There were no guesthouses in Sapa yet, so we had to sleep outside on the ground, using the fur of a buffalo which was tied onto our back. This ‘traditional raincoat’ is now exposed to the tourists in the information centre, established by the Agriterra project.
My father was a very handy man. He could make a gun in one day. He also made guns for other people in the village. To pay him back they had to work for two days in his fields.
At that time my family was already growing maize. We didn’t have fertiliser, so the yield was very low: only one pack. From the New Year Festival (in January/February) until May we did not have enough food and we were hungry. Nowadays we can harvest three packs of maize.

From a governmental programme we receive technical training. As a result of this we have a better yield and have food all year round. Now there is a road, so we can transport our products to the market. We have a higher production and enough to eat, but we still lack the money to buy necessary goods. We notice the climate is changing; we used to have silkworm here, from which we produced silk to make cloths, especially wedding cloths. Now, the silkworm has gone and we have to buy the silk on the market.
In the earlier days we collected a lot of medicine from the forests but we did not know the exact effect. Now we get help from the university to examine the effect of the different types of medicine, and also how to make the best medicinal steam bath, which we offer to tourists.
Many tourists nowadays come to our village. We don’t think it is good to chase them around in the village trying to sell our handicrafts, so we only sell our handicrafts here in the information centre. I have started my own business, I receive tourists who can stay overnight in my homestead and I sell medicine.

The paved road, fertilisers and technical training from the government all helped us with improving our production so that we have enough to eat. It also helped us to sell our products in the market of Sapa. The assistance from the university in making a good medicinal steam bath is also important to me. I know more about medicine now and I can attract more tourists.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A multiple project approach

The support of SCC to Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) in Zambia, illustrates how effective changes in marketing behaviour, prices and transaction costs, demand multiple project approaches which can be combined and coordinated within one farmers’ organisation. The market linkages are also very effective to increase the membership base. The case further illustrates how advocacy efforts by the farmer organisation have contributed to improvements on farm level. The case highlights the strategic potential of working via a mix of small and larger scale farmers in one organisation and of a more participatory exit strategy via the farmers’ organisation.

“The support of SCC to ZNFU took place between 2006 and 2008. Important ingredients of the approach for improving market access have been the introduction of a price and trade information system (price information on 24 commodities accessible by mobile phones), bulking of produce and collective marketing, awareness training on micro finance practice. Also support to improve access to agricultural inputs and skills training was included and crucial for the positive results. HIV mainstreaming and gender have further contributed to inclusion of the vulnerable into the successful approaches. From the organisational part, the membership of ZNFU increased from 5.659 to 9.313 members between 2005 and 2008. Lobby activities of ZNFU have contributed to the success of the marketing and productivity initiatives. ZNFU managed to lobby with the government to increase the number of beneficiaries for the national ‘Fertiliser Support Programme’. As a result, the number of national beneficiaries increased from 70.000 to 200.000 small holder farmers and the subsidy increased from 72% to 82%. ZNFU also facilitated strategic collaboration with organisations to foster conservation agriculture. Finally ZNFU has been active in various regional and international trade agreement discussions. The different support initiatives have improved the price negotiation processes of farmers and their access to better paying agricultural markets. ZNFU knows an unique membership base characterised by a mix of small scale and larger scale farmers. Thanks to the larger scale farmers, activities tended to take a more business oriented nature and small scale farmers were inspired.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Positive results, despite negative external trends

In El Salvador the cooperative dynamics in the Confederación de Federaciones de la Reforma Agraria Salvadoreña CONFRAS (confederation) were strengthened and CONFRAS was enabled to contribute to farm diversification and marketing, resulting in increased income for farmers, including women, and despite negative external trends. There is still need for continuous attention and awareness creation for farmers to produce according to market demand. Also, despite high female membership, the participation of young people and women in managerial roles remains relatively low.

“The support involved 11 cooperatives and 5 women’s committees (representing in total 328 women and 388 men). Functional and organisational aspects of the cooperatives and participating women’s committees were strengthened. 11 cooperatives have improved their management (for example adequate accounting and improved participation in general assembly’s has increased by 84%). The gender aspect has been very central during the organisational strengthening. Presently 27% of the management positions are taken by women in the cooperatives, compared to 10% at the start, with an impact on further strategies and policies for gender in the cooperatives. Apart from the organisational strengthening of the different cooperatives, CONFRAS has strengthened its capacity to defend the rights of the cooperative members and has supported the advocacy capacity of its grass root members. These organisational and advocacy efforts have been very complementary to support farmers for product diversification and collective marketing. A result of 140 ha with 23 new crops can be registered. 87% of the members market their produce together (of which 60% women). In 2008, 358 producers increased the value of their farm plots by at least 40%. 67% of the total population obtained higher incomes and 34% of the participating household met their basic food needs, made small investments in irrigation or purchased agricultural supplies. This impact was realised against a negative external trend of flood, which caused 15% loss of production. Also the price of agricultural inputs generally increased with 100% in the region. There are remaining challenges. It asks continuous efforts to overcome lack of trust and to change the attitude of ‘selling what is produced’ towards ‘producing what can be sold’. Also, despite improvements, participation of young people and women in managerial roles remains low, and needs further encouragement.”

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sun flowering

Patrick Ogwang (ogwangpatrick@yahoo.com) is a thirty-year-old farmer from Dokolo in Northern Uganda. Many people who were driven away by armed conflicts before now live in this area. Only since two years the area is experiencing a relative sense of safety. HIV/ Aids is another major issue which is always present and disrupts family life. Patrick got married in 2007, he and his wife have two little boys, of which one is already going to nursery. Patrick owns two acres of land where he grows several crops like maize, soyabeans, sweet potatoes, sogum, peas and sesame seed.

Patrick became a member of the Uganda Oilseed Producers and Processors Association (UOSPA) in 2005. UOSPA promotes sunflower growing among its farming members as a means of generating additional income. In order to enable farmers to market their commodities in a better way, UOSPA is also supporting them to organise themselves in groups. The promotional activities of UOSPA stimulated Patrick in making his decision to start growing sunflowers. Besides promoting sunflower cultivation, UOSPA also offers extensive service to its members. On average Patrick is visited by an UOSPA advisor twice a month. During those visits together they identify bottlenecks, after which they share their findings with the other farmers in the group in order to think up solutions. Patrick and his group also attend training sessions organised by UOSPA. Here they learn about different issues like: good agronomic practice (e.g. intercropping and rotation of crops), land preparation and planting techniques, farming as a business, nutrition, HIV/Aids and hygiene. Patrick indicated that he learns a lot from these trainings.

Patrick regards sunflower as an easy growing crop which, when the knowledge obtained from the trainings of UOSPA is applied correctly, does not require too much labour. Therefore he can pay more attention to his other crops and his cattle. He now owns one cow and a calve, two goats and eight chickens. Furthermore, sunflower enables him to earn cash money. Compared to the period before he grew sunflowers, Patrick estimates that he is now earning 1,000 to 2,000 Ugandan Shillings extra per day. With that money (though worth less than 1 Euro) he feels that he can take better care of his cattle and he feels he can support his family very well. Patrick is also saving some money now, and with those savings he expects to be able to provide his children with good education when they grow older. According to Patrick, these positive changes in his life can be attributed to the growing of sunflowers and the very instructive trainings organised by UOSPA.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Better price for the rice

The case of a farmers group in Uganda, member of Uganda Co-operative Alliance (UCA), demonstrates the benefits for farmers from adapted and professional training on the warehouse receipt concept. The warehouse receipt scheme was complemented by a credit and loan association leading to decreased vulnerability. More sustainable links with more important markets were established thanks to the sale of larger quantities.

“In Mukono district, a group of farmers joined forces to store and sell rice in a warehouse receipt scheme. They received training and advice from the Uganda Cooperative Alliance (UCA), a partner of SCC. The farmers can store their rice in a common warehouse and decide themselves when they want to sell their harvest. They can take out loans against their warehouse receipts from a UCA supported savings and credit association whenever they need to. The chair of the cooperative witnesses: ‘the loans mean that we don’t have to sell when the prices are low. Working together also means that we can get better prices. We are now also supplying rice to Makerere University, which is something that we never believed possible’.”

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rags to Riches

Ms. Manju Thing is about 50 years old (she does not know her age exactly). She is married and has 5 daughters and 2 sons. She used to earn an income together with her husband from woodcutting and selling wood and sand collection/sand sieving. They are landless people. She is since 7 years member of the Mahila Cheetana SACCOS (Savings and Credit Co-operative Societies) in Makwanpur
What was your situation before (several years ago)?
Manju used to be cutting wood and filtering sand together with her husband to make a living. They did not have their own land and had a very simple house with a leaf roof. She belongs to an ethnic group in Nepal (minority group), which in general does not have a high status in the society. She was having a marginal life with hardly any options to improve her livelihood and had a very low social status in the society.

How is your situation now? What has changed?
Manju is now living in a small house with 2 rooms and a proper roof. She is at present the chairperson of the Mahila Cheetana SACCOS, having a total of 1092 members. She is a board member of the District Union Council of Makawanpur and is a highly respected person in the community.


Which changes were most important/far reaching? Why?
The most important change in her life is that she has learned to talk to people, to network and to mobilize other people. As a result of this, she feels empowered, and people respect her a lot these days. It has not been easy and a lot of hard work has been done by her. But now she is very happy and feels that the credit comes to her. Economically her life has not changed that much: she owns a small two room house, but she is happy with that. The award she got is a higher social status, self esteem and lots of recognition by the society around her.

How/why did these changes come about? (describe process and what caused these changes?)
Manju participated as an active member in a Self Help Group (SHG) of poor women, being supported by PLAN Nepal, starting about 10 years ago. Manju gradually took the lead in this SHG, and she mobilized many people. The group decided to register as a multipurpose SACCOS 7 years ago. However, this did not really work for the group and three years ago the multipurpose coop was transformed into a women’s saving and credit cooperative society with initially 58 members. This has grown into a successful women’s SACCOS and she is now the chairperson.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Trust and motivation

A loan from a local group (SACCO) hasn’t only boosted the economic potential of a member of this local group in Tanzania, but has mainly boosted her social confidence and trust in future enterprises.

In Tanzania, a member of a SACCO reports on the changes in her life. Although she has not been in a leadership position in a SACCO and only joined three years ago, she has experienced important effects. She took a loan in 2006 to grow local beans in a nearby irrigation scheme. She bought seeds and pesticides with a loan and paid the labourers. By selling the harvest, she was able to pay back the loan and to keep a small profit. The profit was relatively low because of changed market conditions at harvest time. More important for her and her husband was the successful experience of managing the loan. After her experience, her husband equally had a loan to grow onions in the same irrigation scheme. Rose is currently pregnant and doesn’t have an outstanding loan but her experience was motivating. She is planning to take another loan in the near future. This time it will be to start a small trading business of local vegetables. Rose is very optimistic about future changes she can make to her life.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Business at base level

A woman, farming in Malawi, illustrates the effectiveness of support to local farmer groups (members of NASFAM) for farm diversification, improved marketing and household food security. The group approach for training increased her motivation and the provision of cheaper inputs via the farmer association has pulled her further into the business.

“The support project to NASFAM and other associations in Malawi by SCC, reached 60.000 farmers. One of the members witnesses that she joined a local farmer group and has since been regularly visited by the field workers of the organisation. The organisation also provides her with group training for crop diversification. She also had access to fertilizer and seeds for sweet potato at a cheaper price. This has helped her to grow sweet potatoes, water melon and tropical fruit in addition to the traditional maize. She is now able to feed her family and also sells some products at the local market. The sales provide her with an additional monthly income of 400 SEK. She has been able to construct a brick house with this profit.” (SCC)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Knowledge utilised is power

A farmer, member of Nembure farmers’ cooperative society in Kenya, describes how he managed to break the circle of poverty through farm diversification and improved marketing. The fact to interact and socialise with other farmers of the cooperative has been the start of and has been his major motivation to remain member of the cooperative. The cooperative has further supported him all the way to smoothly roll out his first initiatives towards more intensive farming. Despite the improvements and continuous support, he finds he remains vulnerable to market price fluctuations.

“He had always been eager for information and received this information by socialising with people. This was initially also his main reason for joining the cooperative. In the cooperative, he was informed on the potential of growing passion fruits. Initially he planted 70 un-grafted plants and his initiative grew eventually to cultivating 280 of grafted plants. He also started investing in poles, wires and sprays to fully protect his plants. According to him, the production costs are reasonable but market price fluctuations can pose problems. The fruits are harvested and marketed locally on a weekly basis and brokers collect them from the farm to sell at the Embu market. His passion fruits fetch an average Kenyan shillings 6,000 per month, which is an additional income to his traditional coffee and subsistence farming. Since he succeeded in growing passion fruits, he has also expanded his farm towards papaya, water melon and tomatoes. These complement his income when the passion fruit price is low. He feels relieved because he doesn’t have to worry anymore about family expenses and school fees. He is a proud father now.”

Monday, May 19, 2008

Kenfap’s role during the after election violence in Kenya

The large scale political violence after the disputed Kenyan presidential elections in 2007 heavily affected the country. Not surprisingly it has also deeply affected Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers (KENFAP), its operations and its members. During the last months of 2007 and the first four months of 2008 KENFAP could not carry out its program normally. Some of the KENFAP regional staff was displaced and hence deployed elsewhere. Moreover, Kenya was not safe to travel, especially in the affected areas. The Kenyan farmers have lost a lot over during the political violence. Farms have been burnt, several of got killed especially in the most affected areas, stores were destroyed, roads were blocked. Due to destroyed infrastructure milk and other perishables couldn't access markets or processing plants. Meanwhile people in the urban areas were lacking food and supplies. Some of Kenfaps' staff and members have lost all that they owned during the process of ethnic animosity.

Some days after the violent outburst Kenfap - in coalition with some other organizations – made firm press statements calling upon peace and reconcilement and appealing leaders and politicians to set personal interests and emotions aside. Additional, KENFAP took the initiative of a massive effort to restore peace and foster reconciliation in the affected districts. KENFAP initiated peace and reconciliation meetings at district and local level attended by local stakeholders from all levels and farmers. It gave the participants room to express their anger, fear and frustration, but those meetings also led to mutual understanding among people with different ethnic backgrounds. Moreover the information that elicited from the participants during the meetings proved to be a very powerful package in the lobby and advocacy efforts towards the national government. This has given KENFAP a leading voice articulating farmers’ issues in the national debate after the post election violence, especially concerning rising costs of seeds and fertilizers and looming food shortages as a result of the violence. In short KENFAP recognition has grown dramatically as a result of the leading role KENFAP took in the aftermath of the disputed elections. The highlight was the KENFAP meeting of national farmer leaders in Nairobi on March 14th, attended by Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Mathaai.

Besides Agriterra's support at the crises relief stage, various others such as GTZ, GOAL, Mercy Corps came in and partnered with KENFAP at a number of issues. Although peace-building doesn’t belong to a farmer organizations’ core business, KENFAP 's interference was of great importance. At the point the entire systems in Kenya went down, even the government could not intervene, but KENFAP did. KENFAP was able to pacify the antagonistic communities all the way to the local level. kENFAP took its responsibility on matters affecting its members.

By date, the situation has slowly turned back to normal and consequently KENFAP has been resuming its normal activities. Issues of skyrocketed prices of fertilizers and seeds and looming food shortages however remain on the lobby agenda of Kenfap.

Monday, May 12, 2008

It’s peanut time

In the North West Burkina Faso (Province of Mouhoun) AFDI has promoted facilitation of better management and economic analysis of farm resources by their members. The fact that farmers could discuss the innovations amongst each other has contributed significantly to their awareness and effective changes. The impact (2007) has been very significant for farmers who have participated for at last three years. The example shows the potential to increase awareness and to improve yields and quality by improved farm resource management. The experience also points out the intensive and long term support needed to achieve these results. The membership remains limited (170 farmers have been involved directly and neighbouring farmers were affected indirectly).

“Just because of the approach and the farm analysis, farmers themselves have further requested their organisation to provide technical courses on making compost, cattle husbandry and also requested assistance of the supply of cattle vaccines. Farmers have organised themselves and requested more exchange between farmers which are now a regular part of the strategy of the farmer organisation. These exchanges have clearly motivated farmers and have led to in-depth discussion between farmers on the advantages of specific innovations like improved seeds. This approach was witnessed as the most effective way of convincing farmers for well considered innovations at farmer level.
- Because of this behavioural change, crop husbandry, yields and margins of crops have further increased. The yields (per ha) of rice, maize and peanuts is 969 kg, 1.333 kg and 824 kg respectively for farmers who have participated for more than three years. This compares to 600 kg, 1.111 kg and 648 kg for new participants.
- Because of the improved quality of products, in which some farmers now started to specialise, the market prices have further increased. All farmers who participated for more than three years, have witnessed increased income. The profit margins per ha have equally increased. For farmers who participated for more than three years, profit has increased to 97.046 CFA for rice, to 47.370 CFA for peanuts and to 42.425 for maize, compared to 71.333 CFA for rice in case of new participants, 40.638 for peanuts and 29.452 for maize.
- The method has also increased the consciousness of members of the food security needs of the household, also by men. Management of harvest and stocks is now better adapted to these needs. Participants further stressed that because of the sale of short cycle cash crops, school costs were better covered and the school attendance of children of participants have increased more than for non or recent participants.”

Friday, April 4, 2008

Non-traditional crops improve the life of Tanzanian farmers

The impact data of members of Mayawa in Kagera, demonstrate how farmers have increasingly been able to profit from potential positive regional marketing trends as a member of the farmers association. At the same time, the impact data illustrate that market studies have not been readily available when necessary, resulting in unexpected market shocks or unexploited opportunities for farmers. Also, volumes remain too limited to attract large buyers.

“Mayawa is a regional farmer organisation in Kagera, Tanzania, which is active in both rural and urban areas. It has received organisational support for several years since the 1990’s. Mayawa has contributed to introduction of small holder production of vanilla, mushrooms, rosella and jatropha in Kagera. Successes have been recorded, but they have not been fully exploited because of deficient market studies when introducing new crops. Still, a quantitative survey found that the average farmer income from non-traditional crops increased by 326% in the rural areas and by 441% in the urban areas. The average annual production of food crops increased with 17% and 5% for urban and rural districts respectively between 2003 and 2007. These gains cannot only be attributed to Mayawa. Mayawa has rather empowered farmers to make the most of the positive external influences. Despite the high production increase, the volumes are still too low to attract large buyers that require assurance of continued supply of reasonable quantities. There are initiatives underway for Mayawa to get an organic certificate for vanilla, which is expected to boost their marketing potential. The increased income has helped to improve the quality of housing of members: 54 % of the houses were made of bricks in 2007 against 30% four years earlier, 46% houses had mud walls compared to 70% four years earlier. 49% of the respondents own a phone now, 90% acquired this phone during the programme period and used it for market information. The major elements of further impact on farmers’ well-being are: improved food security, increased confidence, optimism and trust that have evolved over the years of the organisation’s existence.”

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Sowing without ploughing

In Tunisia and in Morocco, ‘sowing without ploughing’ (no till) was introduced through grassroots groups and associations. As a result the farmers’ income ánd environmental sustainability increased. This approach through associations enabled quick replication and stable linkages to research institutes. The case illustrates how gradual and long term support to these important change processes has been necessary for farmers to fully adapt. Moreover, exchange with farmers in France, has been an extra motivation for the farmer groups to bundle their forces. Finally, the fact that organised farmers have been able to buy collectively capital intensive equipment has certainly contributed to the success.

“Direct sowing has major positive effects in reducing erosion and shows also important labour saving and cost saving characteristics that allow vulnerable farmers to increase acreage and crop diversity. The project argues that facilitating the process of farmers to organise themselves in grassroots groups and into agriculture conservation associations that function as platforms of cooperation between research institutions, farmer organisations, technicians and private companies, has in particular promoted the introduction of this new technology. The introduction of the improved techniques is gradual. Farmers need to be convinced of the advantages and need to collaborate with each other before they invest in the relatively costly sowing equipment. A case study of a group of farmers of Mateur (Tunisia) illustrates these dynamics. The support started in 2001 by introducing the advantages of direct sowing to three farmers and by renting a no-till sowing machine. 17 ha were directly sowed. In 2002, their yields rose from 12QTx to 20 QTx and in 2003 from 54 QTX to 58 QTX. Four years later, in 2005-2006 after exchange visits with farmer groups in France, and Spain, seven farmers started a cooperative (El Manuel) and bought a seeder together. They sowed directly (without ploughing) 672 ha of land, which is 44% of their land. The yields of the crops have more than doubled. Whereas in 2001, direct sowing was only applied for wheat, now seven crops are directly sowed. The support has facilitated the process because it has covered a long term period allowing farmers to adopt the new system on approximately 80% of their land.” Similar dynamics have been observed in Morocco with support to the formation and activities of the Khemisset Chaouïa cooperative (started in 2000). The process of introduction of ‘no till’ cultivation was slightly different from in Tunisia but also shows some similarities. “Since 2000, 10 of the 20 farmers of the cooperative started ‘no till’ cultivation on 19% of their total acreage and for three crops. After years of borrowing cultivators, sometimes of inferior quality, the cooperative felt sufficiently confident to buy a no-till sowing machine in 2005. Now, approximately 30% of the members’ land is cultivated directly by the community-owned seeder. In all cases, yields are at least the same as in conventional systems.”

Friday, February 15, 2008

Farmers’ exchange works

In the North West Burkina Faso (Province of Mouhoun) AFDI has promoted facilitation of better management and economic analysis of farm resources by their members. The fact that farmers could discuss the innovations amongst each other has contributed significantly to their awareness and effective changes. The impact (2007) has been very significant for farmers who have participated for at last three years. The example shows the potential to increase awareness and to improve yields and quality by improved farm resource management. The experience also points out the intensive and long term support needed to achieve these results. The membership remains limited (170 farmers have been involved directly and neighbouring farmers were affected indirectly).

“Just because of the approach and the farm analysis, farmers themselves have further requested their organisation to provide technical courses on making compost, cattle husbandry and also requested assistance of the supply of cattle vaccines. Farmers have organised themselves and requested more exchange between farmers which are now a regular part of the strategy of the farmer organisation. These exchanges have clearly motivated farmers and have led to in-depth discussion between farmers on the advantages of specific innovations like improved seeds. This approach was witnessed as the most effective way of convincing farmers for well considered innovations at farmer level.
- Because of this behavioural change, crop husbandry, yields and margins of crops have further increased. The yields (per ha) of rice, maize and peanuts is 969 kg, 1.333 kg and 824 kg respectively for farmers who have participated for more than three years. This compares to 600 kg, 1.111 kg and 648 kg for new participants.
- Because of the improved quality of products, in which some farmers now started to specialise, the market prices have further increased. All farmers who participated for more than three years, have witnessed increased income. The profit margins per ha have equally increased. For farmers who participated for more than three years, profit has increased to 97.046 CFA for rice, to 47.370 CFA for peanuts and to 42.425 for maize, compared to 71.333 CFA for rice in case of new participants, 40.638 for peanuts and 29.452 for maize.
- The method has also increased the consciousness of members of the food security needs of the household, also by men. Management of harvest and stocks is now better adapted to these needs. Participants further stressed that because of the sale of short cycle cash crops, school costs were better covered and the school attendance of children of participants have increased more than for non or recent participants.”

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Farmers know their soil

In Senegal, UPA-DI has supported a pilot project ‘Les Savoirs des Gens de la Terre’, for about 80 farmers within one federation (Fédération des périmètres autogérés, FPA) and one farmers’ union (Union des groupements paysans de Méchke, UGPM). The awareness and confidence of farmers and their dynamics and motivation have improved. An external evaluation warns for one sided focus on farm leaders and pleads for strengthening further the links with the membership base.

“The objectives of the project are situated on the level of the farmers (better farm management, planning, analysis and improved technical competence, including traditional knowledge) and on the level of the farmer organisations (technical contribution to development of farmer organisations, support for better assessment of farmers’ needs and to democratic management of local groups). The members witness several type of changes which they summarize as: ’managing better our present situation in order to better control the future, rather than living the present without future vision’. They are more aware of their rights and consider themselves as full participants in society. The project also contributed to intensified links between local farmer groups. The leaders of the local organisations discuss agriculture policy now ‘under the tree’, even complicated matters (the role of government, food sovereignty, equity principles etc.). At the same time an external evaluation warns for too much focus on strengthening of leaders of producer organisations as they might become disconnected of the membership basis. The evaluation concludes that the local farmer groups have matured and are more aware of the value of collective action but also states that the need for transparency and communication to their constituents deserves more attention.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A career switch with good consequences

Mr. Constantin is a 45-year old farmer and lives together with his wife and child in the Tighina region in the Republic Moldova. Mr. Constatin studied physics and worked as an inspector for the Ministry of Education. However, in the 1990s the Government sector was plagued with many problems; salaries were often not paid, or only very late.

After having worked as an inspector for almost 15 years, Mr. Constatin decided to switch into horticulture, hoping that this would provide him and his family with a more stable income. He had taken over the land that was previously cultivated by his parents. Due to the lack of financial means, he was severely constrained further developing his horticulture venture.

Then, in 2002, Mr. Constatin was able to secure a loan from the Rural Economic Development Fund, a fund managed by the National Farmers Federation Moldova (NFFM). With these funds he was able to set-up a nursery in a plastic tunnel greenhouse, allowing him to plant seedling during the winter season already.

Mr. Constatin has been very successful developing his horticulture. In his greenhouse he is growing seedlings (tomato, watermelon, pickles); once the small seedlings are big enough, they are transplanted into other fields; parts of the seedlings are also sold on the local market to other farmers. The production of tomatoes has been excellent; together with colleagues he was able to have sufficient quantity to export to Belarus where he got a premium price for his tomatoes.

“This experience was vey importance for me; with support of NFFM I had to do business planning, reporting etc; I also built up a credit-history. It gave me a lot of confidence in myself. In addition, people around saw that I was able to develop my agriculture business, and they in return had a lot of confidence in me!”
Mr. Constantin is continuing developing his business. He recently started building a new greenhouse of about 3.000 m2.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Monicah Mbeneka Kimeu

Monicah lives in Kandula village of Kyuu location in Mbooni Division, which is in Mbooni West District in Eastern Province of Kenya. She was born in 1944 and got married in 1960 to a farmer and got involved in mixed farming, an activity she has done all her life. Unfortunately, she became widowed in 1987. She had a co-wife who also passed away in 1997, leaving six children (2 girls and 4 boys). She had her own children (2 girls and 4 boys) but one boy passed away in late 2008, leaving a widow with five small children. She is the grandmother of 22 children and great grandmother to three. Her co-wife has 21 grandchildren to date.

Monicah is an active member of several community self help groups. One such group is known as Kandula women group. This group is involved in various development activities to improve the living standard of its members. One of the main challenges this group is struggling with is how to get water enough for irrigating their farms to produce vegetables. She is also a member of the Kikima farmers cooperative society, which is implementing the CoopWorks project.

In farming, Monicah mixes different types of enterprises on her 3 acre plot – on the farm she grows maize, beans, cassava, sweet and English potatoes, apple, mangoes, avocado and macadamia. Horticulture is impossible because there is no irrigation water.

She also plants napier grass for her cows. She has two cows of mixed breed – Sahiwal, one of which she milks to make tea in the morning and in the evening for sale. However, the milk production is not much because there is not enough grass. She also has three dogs.

Monicah is also a coffee farmer and is a member of the Kikima farmers’ cooperative society by virtue of having 200 plants which give her approximately 400 kilograms of coffee each year.

Daily routine
A normal day for Monicah begins at 6 am when she wakes up to milk the cow. She then makes tea, goes to draw water and seeks for animal feeds. By 10 am she goes to the farm and works until about 2 pm when she eats lunch and waters the animals and then takes a brief rest. She will then go to group meetings and come home to prepare an evening meal, when it is available.

Problems/ Challenges she is facing
There are several challenges facing this farmer, as well as others in rural Kenya. These include but are not limited to the following: -

 Farm production is limited by unavailability of farm inputs such as manure, fertilizer, spray chemicals, etc and implements because they are too expensive
 This type of farming is only subsistence and one may never break out of poverty
 Inadequate clean water for drinking and irrigation of vegetables

Suggested solutions
Monicah feels that things could change for the better if several issues are tackleed:
 Provision of irrigation water to grow vegetables and other horticultural crops. The Kandula women group has identified a valley that, if dammed, can catch run-off water and then spread by gravity to reach the various farms.
 When there is water to grow vegetables, it will be easy to acquire micro loans to advance the production
 With a higher income, she will give her cows better nutrition – grass and dairy meal – to improve their production
 She feels that kenyans should elect better leaders who can cause development to take place at the grassroots level.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

With lobby more progress can be made

Agriterra and the ZLTO have already been working together for many years with the federation APA Transilvania in Romania. With the entry of Romania into the EU in 2007, the contents of this cooperation changed, because since then Romania was no longer considered a developing country and, as a result, Agriterra no longer was allowed to finance organisations within Romania.

The entry into the EU, however, did not automatically imply improvement of the situation of the Romanian farmers. More than ever farming organisations have to stand up for the interests of their members and raise their voice, both nationally and internationally.

A Romanian farmer who fights hard for this is Claudiu Franc. Claudiu Franc, a 46-year old veterinary surgeon, studied at the Agricultural University and worked in a state cattle breeding company with 7,000 heads of cattle (dairy cows and young cattle). After three years, at the end of 1989, he returned to his mountainous native region Maramures, known for its cattle breeding and fruit culture. Since 2004 he has been a member of the cattle breeding society there, and also of the local council. Two years later he was elected chairman of the society of cattle breeders from the region of Maramures. Since then he dedicates himself to the protection of cattle breeder interests together with APA Transilvania.

His dream of arranging a modern cattle breeding company took shape in in 2007, when his project received support from the EU by means of the Sapard-programme (’Special action programme for agriculture and rural development’), an instrument which the EU applies to support candidate member states in Central and East Europe. This success gave an impulse to Franc to fight even harder for the interests of the cattle breeders in order to gain more success for the sector. This, amongst other things, led in 2007 to the foundation of the National Federation of Cattle breeders, where Claudiu Franc was elected vice-chairman.


APA Transilvania was supported by Agriterra and ZLTO in organising a training on the topics of lobby and protection of interests, and about the communal agricultural politics of the EU. This training took place in February of this year, and was organised by Frank van Oorschot of the ZLTO. During the training the member organisations of APA learned everything about lobby, EU policies, subsidy schemes, participation, and so on. This way they got to know that Romania does not have representatives in the European Economic Social Comittee (EESC) in Brussels, while the EESC has a bridging function between the European institutions and the middle social area and gives advice to the EU. Therefore the EESC is the obvious place for farmers to raise their voice.


The Federation of cattle breeders took the advice of Van Oorschot to heart and appointed Claudiu Franc representative in the Committee. He has already visited Brussels once (in april this year) to participate in conferences about the meat price of cattle. At the end of this year a new round of conferences with colleagues from other countries has been planned in Brussels. Franc’s contribution there is of major importance to APA Transilvania, their member organisations and the Romanian farmers.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

It starts with literacy

Féderation des Paysans du Fouta Djallon in Guinea has been supported since 2001 by UPA-DI. An evaluation in 2008 provides evidence of the increased capacity of farmer organisations, of changed agricultural practices, increased yields and better natural resource management. Working with organised farmers has contributed to a fast increasing outreach. Literacy and numeracy classes for members have positively contributed to their adaptation rates for new techniques. Market and climate volatility remain risk factors for farmers, despite important income and safety net improvements.

“Support was provided in the field of organisational strengthening of various levels of farmers groups and organisations.
- The evaluation has found that literacy unblocked farmers to capability to effectively apply the new agricultural techniques and increased their interest in more professional agriculture. 5.708 farmers have been trained in literacy of which 70% effectively managed to read and write after the course. Quantitative research showed that 84% of the members who took literacy courses now sow in lines, 78% respect better fertilizer use and 58% produce and use compost.
- The programme also supported farmers with introduction of new processing techniques. Important has been the drying techniques and equipment for onions of which 625 members of 43 groups have benefited.
- Also clearing and opening of new farm land has been important. In total, 76 ha have been cleared and are currently planted with rice, tomatoes, egg fruits etc.
- Environmental management has improved as 50% of the studied groups now have stone corridors in their fields, 100% of the groups use hedges, 20% of the households use wood saving stoves.
As a result, the crop yields have increased, although the results are troubled by the harsh climate. Potato yields increased from 17 tons/ha in 2003 to 23 tons/ha in 2005/2006 in the plains. Sales margins have more than doubled for potatoes at the riverside, but declined for potatoes in the plains, mainly due to high initial investment costs. The tradable volumes in onions increased by 30 to 40% in the studied groups and the total income from onions in these groups more than doubled as also the price per kg increased. The markets in Guinea are vulnerable to the extent that it is difficult to predict whether sustainable income increase will take place. An evaluation survey found that households borrow less from each other and spend more on food, housing, health care and medication, clothes, agricultural equipment and household utensils. The scale of the effects can be estimated from the total 382 groups involved and the number of members 2.841 that paid a membership fee.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What was your situation several years ago?

Mr. Simon Asatryan is a farmer in Armenia. After the collapse of the former Soviet-Union in 1991, Mr. Simon and his family acquired one hectare of agricultural land in his village as part of the agrarian reform program. He was also able to buy an additional one hectare of agricultural land in 2002. At that time, Mr. Simon Asatryan was growing grapes and apricots. The famous Armenian apricots were mainly for export to Russia, whereas grapes were mainly sold in the local market.

How is your situation now? What has changed?

During the last six years, Mr. Simon Asatryan has been able to acquire 4 additional hectares of land. Currently, he is also renting 2 hectares of land, making the total area of land under cultivation 8 hectares, mainly with grapes and apricots. According to Mr. Simon Asatryan, there is a continuous need for expanding the farm land in order to survive as a farmer. But, in recent years land has become scarce in his village. A big agri-business firm has recently acquired a large piece of waste land to establish vineyards with French grapes. This could be a good opportunity for the farmers in this village as the agri-business firm will probably also establish a winery and additional infrastructure, giving alternative market outlets for the farmers. The recent conflict between Russia and Georgia has been worrisome in terms of export of apricots to Russia as trucks could not pass disputed territory. New routes through Turkey, Bulgaria and Ukraine were explored to reach the Moscow market. Fortunately, although using this longer alternative route, exporting was still profitable.

Which changes were most important/far reaching? Why?
How/why did these changes come about? (describe process and what caused these changes?)

Mr. Simon Asatryan has been a founding member of Aygegorts Agricultural Association in 2002. Since then, he has been actively engaged. He considers being member of this cooperative as crucial for his farm as alone he would not be able to solve many problems. For example, Mr. Simon Asatryan acquires agricultural inputs like fertilizer and fuel through his cooperative at a lower-than-market prices, often the advantage is more than 20%. At the same time, the cooperative guarantees good quality inputs at the right time! The cooperative also gives him access to training and consultancy services from FAA (Federation of Agricultural Associations), the national level federation of 17 agricultural association. Finally, the Federation is facilitating the exports to foreign markets, ensuring that he can sell his apricots at a good price!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Timing and colour charts

The example of the support to a provincial farmers’ organisation in Vietnam (VFA Cantho) illustrates how capacity building of the farmers’ organisation, has improved the outreach towards minority groups and has contributed to a more demand driven approach of the extension services. The support has increased marketing, profitability and at the same time natural resource management of the involved farmers. Operating in Vietnam, of course one deals with an attribution problem, certainly the interventions are not solely responsible for the improvements. Also, the successes on local level have been difficult to institutionalise on higher levels of VFA.

“VFA Cantho (Vietnam Farmers Association) has received support for many years with a focus on improving its service capacity for members to increase crop yields, crop diversification and better natural resource management. Important effects have been found in an external quantitative survey. The average rice yield among project members in 2007 was 1.22 times higher than in 2003 (from 5.8 tons/ha to 7 tons/ha in 2007). The cost of production reduced by 19% in 5 years time in two project areas and 25% in two other project areas. The application of in line seeding, ‘Leaf Colour Chart’ for nitrogen management and Integrated Pest Management (‘3 reductions, 3 gains’) contributed to lower cost because of reduced use of seed, pesticides and nitrogen fertilizer. Outreach was better than estimated: 59% of the poor in these communities were included (against 50% as planned). Group formation at hamlet level contributed to the wider outreach amongst minority groups. In VFA Cantho, Vietnam, the farm sales prices increased by 21% for agricultural products and with 16% for non-agricultural products. This was thanks to higher quality products, better organised transportation and better timing of sales. A generally higher market demand, which was not controlled by the project, contributed to the results. The average income of the target group increased from 185,263 VND/person/month in 2003 to 311,315 VND/person/month in 2007 (times 1.7) The study showed that this improved income resulted in improved well-being and increased investments. The successes on local level have been difficult to institutionalise on higher levels of VFA.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Coops cope with external circumstances

The support by SCC to cooperatives in Kenya, illustrates the potential of small cooperatives to contribute to input supply, market linkages and especially improved market payments for small scale farmers, influencing positively their incomes. The example also illustrates how working with cooperatives has advantages for farmers to cope more quickly and in a sustainable way with difficult external circumstances.

“The project has supported 43 primary agricultural cooperatives, 15 small scale farmers organisation and 15 youth groups between 2006-2009. About 6.300 direct beneficiaries are participating via the cooperatives, of which about 43% women. The support of SCC contributes to organisational strengthening of the cooperatives, and to more and better service delivery to the members by the cooperatives. More specifically, a participatory monitoring and evaluation system was strengthened and the professional capacity of cooperatives for democratic principles and for service delivery (market related) to members was built. Also measures to strengthen the accountability towards members have been taken. For the members of the cooperatives, this resulted in improved and more diversified services to members and in better payments for their products by the cooperatives. For example, the price paid for milk for members of the Kyumbi dairy association increased with 30%. This took place thanks to higher market prices generally, but also thanks to the fact that the cooperative started to produce yoghurt and linked the members to lucrative markets. Not only prices for farmers increased, but their profitability was further increased by collective supply of inputs for farmers, combined with raising awareness on environmental issues. This type of progress has been translated in an income increase for the members of 46%, despite drought and political violence in Kenya. Still, the example of SCC in Kenya illustrates that working with farmer organisations has the advantage of being close to the analysis of effects by farmers and of working close to farmers to introduce new strategies. Climate changes have quite suddenly introduced longer drought spells in Kenya. Apart from directly introducing drought resistant crops and testing drip irrigation, the project is also able to link the cooperatives directly better to surrounding research institutions in order to search continuously new solutions with them.”

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Power to the women

SCC has supported regional training on gender mainstreaming training for farmer organisations in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda. Through institutional changes in the farmers’ organisations, the members’ household attitudes regarding gender were eventually positively affected. The experience confirmed that sharing experience within a farmers’ organisation plays a key role in motivating leaders and members for mainstreaming gender. To work with a network of organisations gives additional advantages in that respect. Strong commitment of the board is necessary to really achieve results.

“The results were in the field of increased gender balance and more gender sensitive staff in the POs and existence of institutional systems, facilities and services responsive to gender specific needs. The capacity of staff and leaders to mainstream gender was enhanced through gender trainings. Four organisations embarked on developing gender policies and are more committed to addressing gender issues in their organisation. Work plans to make the policies operational are in place and implemented. Awareness and sensitization on gender issues has been translated on local level and demonstrate results. Women take up more leaderships roles; in Uganda in Nyakantonzi Farmers Union, there is now at least one woman on the committee of every primary cooperative society. In Tanzania, (Arumeru, Karatu, Makambako districts) more women are participating in development activities. Finally, specific initiatives (models) were supported to reduce workload of women at the household level. 30 women of Muguna Farmers Cooperative Society for example were able to purchase water tanks, bicycles and ox carts to bring their produce to the market.”

Monday, April 30, 2007

Farmers union starts Internet booth

There are exciting plans for the KENFAP office in Nyeri. The idea is to have an internet café in the KENFAP office for farmers to use. The room is now being prepared for more computers to be installed but already the KENFAP office is offering training for computers. This Story based on interviews with Grace Ngambi, Mary Muthami; David Kammo and Lucy Mwangi by Anne Dennig in August 2006 KENFAP’s office in Nyeri

Lucy Mwangi. is giving training to farmers in the use of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and of the Internet for Email and to access useful websites. The courses last a week and runs for a couple of hours each day. At the end of the course the participants receive a certificate. The office charges members 500 Ksh and non-members 600 Ksh for the course. The Kaholifa Youth Group has already had some training on using Email and now has its own Email address!

Running an Info Office as a Business.
The KENFAP office is run as a business; charging for photocopying, phone charging, typing, library and Internet services. KENFAP members can borrow books from the library without payment and are charged at a lower rate than non-members for photocopying etc. Now KENFAP head office in is assisting us with the purchase of computers and pays the salaries of the office staff. But KENFAP wants all their offices to be autonomous; they want regional offices to be able to pay for their own expenses.
The income streams we are developing are:
• Exhibitions for farmers to meet buyers
• Extension and specialist consultation
• Internet and office services
• Training courses

Improving Marketing
After the LLL workshop in Kakamega in August 2006, we have plans to continue to improve marketing. The Nyeri Branch intends to organize marketing groups for particular crops and to act as a broker to negotiate a price for a farmer group. Although KENFAP has been working towards this in the last two years we have not yet broken through. There is demand for Sunflowers and farmers want KENFAP to sign a contract for the crop production with one of the Sunflower companies (BIDCO or Elianto) so that the farmers have security (the contract must include all the details of who pays for training etc). If this is done there will then be a need for training and the provision of seeds and fertilizers. At the moment we offer marketing courses, these are run by the head office and organized for producers and buyers to meet and discuss. We would like the want the sunflower companies to pay the farmers’ groups directly (one account per farmers alliance) and then pay KENFAP commission as brokers. KENFAP must educate the farmers and play a role of the broker; the advantage is that the farmers already trust KENFAP. What is imperative is the proper analysis of gross margin; to find the real cost of production. Through exhibitions KENFAP have shown that we can coordinate the farmers- the companies should pay for organizing these exhibitions.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Comment to the World Bank Report 2008 on Agriculture

1. Key messages in World Development Report
1.1 In the aftermath of economic liberation new opportunities emerge for an agriculture-for-development agenda. Through enhanced coordination, reforming the international institutions for agriculture, more financial commitments, progress in setting rules and standards, enhanced leadership and capacity in developing countries, and analysis and advocacy for global action for the benefit of third world interests, the agriculture-for-development agenda can be successful.
1.2 In the specific chapter on governance the perspective of the appropriate selection of policies and their effective implementation is set and the report argues that this will reinforce the political commitment to use agriculture for development.

2. Underlying assumptions
2.1 Stabilization and liberation policies have set the correct macro-development parameters. Global shifts in production and trade, technological and institutional innovation, decentralization and democratization of countries and the proliferation of civil society organizations are the elements that set a new stage. Capturing the benefits of this new situation requires a new engineering of state, market and civil society operations from local up to global level.
2.2 This analysis is congruent with the central message issued in the ‘From Plunder to Economic Democratization’ International Seminar celebrated in Arnhem, Netherlands, 2003. It reads: “...an economic environment with an overvalued exchange rate has crushing effects on production; and such an environment was the prevailing case in the 1980s…Policy reforms after 1980s have dramatically changed the picture. ... In general, no anti-rural bias is found” and “The new economic paradigm beyond interventionism and liberalization is economic democratization. It is based on political democracy, economic freedom and unbiased polices….The free association of workers and farmers allows for the institutionalization of social and economic negotiations on economic policy.” (AgriCord, 2003).
2.3 In the words of the World Development Report: “Responses to the economic crises of the 1980s helped put the macro fundamentals for growth solidly in place. Few countries now have high rates of inflation or large imbalances in their real exchange rates. Progress has been made worldwide with democracy, decentralization, and political stability, including reduced civil strife in Africa. And there have been major gains in the empowerment of civil society, particularly through the proliferation of producer organizations.” (WDR overview.45)
2.4 For governance the stage is set by the current emphasis on democratization, public sector management reforms, controlling corruption and decentralization.

3. The strengths
3.1 The strength is a well argued historical and geographical argumentation which allows readers to follow the argumentation.
3.2 Particularly, and from our perspective very appropriately, the report captures a new reality as far as farmers’ organizations are concerned. In the report there are approximately 200 references to farmers’, producers’ and rural women’s organizations and cooperatives. There is a clear understanding of the importance, functionality and possibilities of these organizations and the variety of organizational forms from local up to global level.
3.3 At the same time, the report underscores the difficulties and weaknesses of farmers’ organizations. In this respect it is useful to emphasize the gap between outsiders’ expectations and farmers’ organizations abilities to fulfil the range of roles and functions that are required from them for implementing the agriculture-for-development agenda. Hence, the need for continued strengthening of their role vis-à-vis their members, the market, state and other social actors. A need that is acknowledged in the report.
3.4 The report rightly stresses the need for and difficulties of land reform.
3.5 The report elaborates on the different pathways out of poverty. Figure 6 (WDR, overview.49) shows that these do not solely depend on the development of agriculture.
3.6 Paragraph 11.21 elaborates correctly on the advantages of ICT in policymaking.

4. The weaknesses
4.1 The International Federation of Agricultural Producers IFAP in its comments on the Draft Report pointed out the multiply opportunities in the text to refer even more to farmers organizations than the report already does; IFAP highlights the need for further strengthening. This is correct and should be taken into consideration in the final version.
4.2 Yet even by doing so, the report will, regretfully, not capture the full developmental implication of the social organization of farmers. The free and open association of producers is the basis of democracy in agrarian countries and therefore as such an engine for development.
4.3 In the report, and especially in the governance chapter, however, producer organizations are seen as just an extra element that is instrumental because it “can also overcome market failures while avoiding government failures. Collective action through producer organizations can enable economies of scale in input supply, extension and marketing, and managing common property resources, such as irrigation systems. Collective action can also increase farmers’ voice in public decision-making and hold service providers accountable” (WDR, 11.14). In this way they put on the same level as NGOs, notwithstanding the obvious difference with the latter for having a constituency to which to be accountable.
4.4 Although the functional analysis in WDR 11.14 is very accurate at a factual level, it misses the development impact that is likely to occur as a consequence of the sole fact that 1.3 billion people get increasingly organized, in particular the farmer entrepreneurs among them, independently of how small their plot may be. The report does not grasp the reality that continued democratisation follows from the proliferation of farmer organizations and their strengthening.
4.5 The report also misses the point that the role and function of farmers’ organizations in policy preparation is something that has to be facilitated. The opinion of the World Bank for participatory policy making is a strong signal, but it is not enough to make it. In the words of the report “It is the citizens of a country and their leaders who reform governance” (par. 11.6). It is paramount to directly support farmers, citizens of agrarian countries, in order to strengthen their organizations so that they can spur the reforms.
4.6 The authors seem to ignore the accumulated experiences - and the contributions to development theory emerging from these experiences - that have been learned in the circles of IFAP. Although the Federation itself (box 6.9) and three agri-agencies related to it (6.85 footnote 101) are mentioned, the report does not appear to have reviewed their experiences. In the report, only the CNCR (Senegal) and FENOCIN (Ecuador) are mentioned as national farmers’ organizations, whereas national bodies of family farmers are the base of IFAP and the partners for AgriCord. Over a hundred of them are working with AgriCord and its agri-agencies with a total member base of 25 million farmers, even when VNFU (Vietnam) and CFA (India) are not counted. These two claim another 130 million members.
4.7 There is more exposure in the report for the regional (supranational) bodies, like ROPPA and EAFF. These are receiving increasing attention since IFAD acknowledged the importance of farmers’ organizations. However, reference to more national federations and unions of farmers in many developing countries could substantially improve the argument. The increase in provincial and local associations, as reported for Burkina Faso and Ecuador and their federation into national bodies, is a far more general trend.
4.8 Communication and banking technology will shortly enable direct support to farmers’ organizations on all levels, improving at the same time the functional and service relations among the different organizational layers.
4.9 The report could have differentiated even more between farmer employment creators and that part of the rural population that relies now on agriculture because of the lack of better employment opportunities; i.e. employment takers that will benefit from new industries and services that will emerge in a market-oriented agriculture. The employment-creating farmers do not confine themselves to farming, but establish ventures for processing, trade and services like banking, insurance, training or information gathering. Having said this, the report should have stressed less the differences between large and small landholders and focussed more on ‘concertation’ within the farming sector and with other sectors of society.
4.10 Whereas Chapter 10 (par. 10.80) announces that capacity building is a central element to assure governance and private capacities for agricultural development, which will be elaborated in Chapter 11, this is not really done on that point. There are some new competences mentioned for the public sector (p.11.6), but reference to wider capacity building efforts for all key actors, including producers, is not elaborated upon.
4.11 The part on decentralisation (par 11.14 - 11.19) mainly illustrates that decentralisation processes have taken place in the majority of countries under review and the Chapter provides examples. It should go further and elaborate on the need for stronger feedback mechanism from local to national (and global, as mentioned in the title of the Chapter) levels, on results of policies and the inclusion of PO needs and priorities into national policies and priorities.

In what way do these arguments alter the positions of the report?
The most important change would be, the following:
· Emphasize the establishment of the free association of farmers for production, processing and servicing of agriculture as one of the pillars of an agenda of agriculture-for-development next to the five mentioned in 10.5.

Additionally, other aspects should be added or modified, including the following:
· Make positive reference to not only the proliferation of farmers’ organizations, but also to the strengthening of national federations and to their efforts to capitalize on new capacities (6.77).
· Give more examples of national farmers’ unions as an important level of organization (between 6.77 and 6.78).
· Highlight even more the need for capacity building efforts on all levels where farmers associate, i.e. capacity to organize, produce, trade, process and service agriculture
· Project an image of what a modern farmer association that fosters development looks like, along the lines of the Farmers Fighting Poverty brochure distributed before the donor seminar with that name in 2006. Please note that not every farmers’ association fosters development (additional box, see below)
· Refer to the beneficial relation between new products that private business makes available for the bottom of the pyramid and the diffusion of technology through farmers’ associations, that in effect operate as the social networks mentioned by the report (cf 3.29)
· Describe more extensively the emerging development cooperation among farmers’ organizations of OECD countries with those of developing countries[1]

Literature or research
AgriCord
2003 Reader International Seminar: From Plunder to Economic Democratisation. A debate of farm leaders with policy makers, development officers and scholars. AgriCord, Arnhem.
Gouët, C. and Leeuwis, C.
2004a Towards Capitalizing on Capacities. The evaluation of Agriterra’s programme 2001-2003. (available from www.agro-info.net)
2004b Capacity Building of Rural People’s Organisations at the local, national and international spheres. Summary of the evaluation of Agriterra’s programme on international cooperation between rural people’s organisations (2001-2003). Wageningen University, report document.
Rondot, Pierre & Marie-Hélène Collion
1999 Agricultural Producer Organizations, their contribution to rural capacity building and poverty reduction
Mercoiret Marie-Rose, Pesche Denis, Bosc Pierre Marie
2006 Rural Producer Organizations (RPOs) for pro-poor sustainable development. Report of the Paris workshop (30-31 October 2006). Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, IFAD, Ministère de l’agriculture et de la Pèche, World Bank, 2006

Cases worth highlighting
KENFAP (Kenya) – An expanding modern farmers’ union that has created a limited company to attend to the business initiatives of its members and promote entrepreneurship
CFA (India) - The establishment of the Confederation of Indian Farmers Associations, an initiative heavily promoted by Federation of Farmers Associations of Andhra Pradesh. This institutionalized farmer alliance groups together farmers’ organizations with a total membership of 120 million Indian farmers.
JNC (Peru) – Effective organization for advocacy on behalf of the producers of an important export crop
VNFU (Vietnam) – Case of a nationwide, top-down controlled farmers’ union that efficiently builds new services and tries to catch up with globalization following national policies. The lack of two-way communication in VNFU is due to the overall political setting in the country. A political machine of this kind can eventually be turned into a powerful instrument for services to farmers, access to agricultural inputs and credit covering all remote corners of the country.
Insurance – farmer-led initiatives in Nepal, Philippines and Cambodia for life insurance
Tourism – farmer-led investments in routes and lodges administered by farmer communities and serviced through the union
FinBase – Participatory multi-stakeholder processes to improve the financial management of farmers’ organizations and make them ready to SomPlan (see World Bank, 1999)
Profiling – The project started in 1999 to elaborate a methodology and practice to regularly gather systematic data on producer organizations in order to follow their development and strengthening. A first comprehensive overview of results is forthcoming in June 2007.
PIPGA – A support methodology developed for national farmers’ organizations to systematically consult their constituency, collect and summarize their points of view, have key issues researched by renowned scholars and advocated in the public debate with government and other social actors. See experiences of UNAG, Nicaragua; CNFR, Uruguay; FAA, Argentina

Other specific recommendations for improving the WDR
· 3.29 reads: “Farmers’ decisions are influenced by the experiences of farmers in their social networks, which can help reduce asymmetric information regarding the new technology.” It should add: Hence, the importance of the organization of farmers into associations and their horizontal and vertical integration into unions and federations. These organizations form the natural environment for spreading the news about new technologies and the success of colleague farmers in applying them.
· In 6.84 reference should be made to the Participatory Policy Generating Programme PIPGA that has supported member consultations of national farmers’ organizations in Latin America, linkages with institutes that can research positions taken by members, and advocacy training.
· Footnote 101 should be incorporated into the text of 6.85: Producer organizations in industrialized countries provide support to organizations in developing countries through their agri-agencies, like AGRITERRA for the Dutch cooperatives, rural women and farmers’ unions, or AFDI and FERT in France. Several European agri-agencies have allied themselves with the Canadian UPA-DI and the Japanese IDACA in AgriCord and signed a cooperation agreement with the International Federation of Agricultural Producers IFAP. The Dutch Government pledged already more than Euro 50 million to this type of direct support from farmer-to-farmer.
· The preceding message could be repeated in a new paragraph 11.74 by saying: Farmer-led, agricultural business or cooperative-led efforts for development cooperation emerged in France (FERT, AFDI), Sweden (SCC) and were copied more recently in the Netherlands (Agriterra). Their farmer-to-farmer cooperation combines direct contact among colleagues addressing productive, management, organizational and marketing issues for primary production but also for services and processing of agricultural produce. The agri-agencies strengthen the advocacy capacities of national farmers’ organizations, improve financial management and help to establish new businesses. Their performance is monitored through an extensive profiling system, which is producing a wealth of information and data on farmers’ organizations. Today the agri-agencies allied in AgriCord have 141 staff in OECD countries and over 215 in developing countries, and have an annual budget of Euro 57 million with operations in 60 countries.
· In Table 11.2 the new emerging farmer-led structure for development cooperation should have been included as AgriCord with a K for agricultural knowledge and an F for Finance/aid for agriculture.
· Include a text box on modern farmers’ organizations, like the following one:

Box 11.xx. Modern farmers’ organizations and co-operatives
Modern national farmers’ organizations are membership organisations, or federations of membership organizations. The members elect their leaders and are accountable to their constituency. Their constituency develops rural and agricultural activities with a certain importance within the country. They have a clear view on poverty reduction and believe that they themselves, as well as their members, can play a role in poverty reduction. Modern organizations are open to dialogue and collaboration. This shows also from their membership of regional and international federations, i.e. organizations that are already familiar with a framework for international cooperation.

In summary they have, at least, potentially, the following characteristics:
· Their constituency should represent a significant share of the rural population in their country.
· They should have the ambition to fulfil a specific role in development.
· They should work towards a society providing full political and economic participation of the rural population.
· They should always look for possibilities of constructive dialogue with other stakeholders (which does not preclude the option of strong protest when this is required).
· They should be open to exchange and dialogue with organizations from other countries.
· They should hold no ties with governments or political parties
· They should have democratic leadership,

In the case of collaboration with (federations of) cooperative societies, some additional criteria should be applied, like being companies that assign rights as well as duties to the membership status and that are open to cooperation and change. Mutual assistance should always be at the centre, combined with a business-like management and the ambition to achieve a positive result. The members should be the owners, having the final word in decisions regarding policy and the distribution of economic benefits.
Source: Farmers Fighting Poverty, brochure International Seminar 2006


Arnhem, April 12, 2007Dr. Kees Blokland (Agriterra) & Dr. Jan Brouwers (Wageningen International)
[1] Such relations with OECD country FO’s, with private sector, with relevant research and training centres worldwide are promoted within IFAP, through AgriCord. In the Netherlands, the Agri-ProFocus network.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Awareness raising becomes natural collateral of practical work among farmers worldwide

Nothing is more inspiring as when to hear people from the in Agriterra paryicipating farmers organisations tell enthusiastically concerning their experiences. In March 75 farmers from the whole region in the South of the Netherlands belonging to ZLTO, one of the three branches of the farmers federation of the Netherlands, came together in a study event. From the introducing words of Kees Coppens and Ton Duffhues it became clear that international cooperation has been anchored in a perfect manner in the complete organisation of the ZLTO. Like with all other issues, development cooperation has office holders at all levels of the organisation, there are structural links with other with the offices, local groups liaise with higher levels and the ideas and initiatives are screened in a clear manner. There is also an investment in making people enthusiatic for this part of the work of the ZLTO. The study day was of this a good example.
Splendid experiences passed the revue. Caracteristic was the anecdote of Lambert Bardoel who for Agriterra/AgroNed's project in Romania regularly visited producers in Rumania for improvement of the tomatoes - and paprika cultivation. When he observed that in the warm summer did not survive a large part of the seedlings, he suggested to use plastic coffee cups to let them grow protected. After they were strong enough, the cup was then cut open and the little plant was put in the ground. The next year the field showed a significantly better production. A farmer told enthusiastically that he had adopted this method, but that he did not cut the cups open. He thought it a waste. If you press with your inch against the base the seedling comes also and the cup can be "recycled"! He introduced this method meanwhile to the other farmers. He showed Lambert in its barn a large stock plastic coffee cups. During the annual beer party the cups were left spread in the party area, so he and his wife came at night and collected them all!

A another nice story was told by Bert Sandee. He met in Niger a stock breeder who also cultivated strawberries for hotels in the city. Bert told him how we in the Netherlands mislead the strawberry plants by laying them during a short time in the refrigeration. Once taken out, the leittle plant thinks that spring has come and will start giving strawberries. The Nigerees impressed by splendid story, explained that it was similar to what he himself does with its guinea fowls. Regularly he climbs on the roof of his barn and with a watering-can trows water on it. The guinea fowls think then that the rain season has started and begin to lay eggs. A splendid example of how everyone comes on his own side of the world eventually with some serendipity to the same ideas.

Also Wilma van der Weele had good experiences in Niger. What especially stood out in her story was how well the 'from farmer-to-farmer' method for horizontal exchange on technology works. Colleagues worldwide understand each other. That is a first requirement for a good contact. She found a Niger consultant which had established contact with the farmers of thye Farmers Platform in Niger on behalf of a foreign developing organisation. But in spite of the fact that he wasa compatriot, the contact was less smooth. This had very much to do with his attidtude of consultant, that compared negatively to colleagues that exchange information on an equal level.

All these stories told by farmers of the ZLTO illustrate how much of the development cooperation principles of Agriterra are completely internalized in the Dutch ZLTO and how these concepts are introduced on a systematic bases to all office holders. This is as such a great story on how awareness raising becomes a natural collateral of practical support efforts among farmers.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Peer-to-peer exchanges and diffusion of technology in an organized farmer framework

In the projections of Farmers Fighting Poverty the number of peer-to-peer missions, farmers from OECD countries that bring advise and support to their colleagues in the developing world, increases from 150 in 2007 to 461 in 2010. This increase follows the general increase in activities that is hoped to be achieved by the agri-agencies and OECD based farmers unions. They will be active in farmers organizations’ projects that will directly involve 2.7 million farmers from developing countries as active participants of these projects. These farmers belong to associations and federations with a membership of almost 25 million farmers. This is about 10% of the total organized peasantry worldwide. This total is one way or another linked to the development effort though the national, regional and worldwide bodies to which these associations belong.

Involving 1% of this organized farming sector in development cooperation activities or bringing in expertise for 34 full time equivalents a year cannot seriously be thought to spur economic development, bring democracy or reduce poverty, one would say. Still, this can be envisaged taking into consideration that the 1% participants should be entrepreneurs carefully selected among the total membership of the organizations involved. Combining theories on entrepreneurship, human and social capital with the economic theory of technological diffusion, one could probably come to an understanding of the dynamics of the force of development of an organized frameworks like farmers’ organizations. Up to now, we only harvested stories on this subject, like AgriPool expert Bert Sandee’s one: he introduced in Niger a rack to conserve onions. In a follow-up mission he found farmers using this rack 1.500 kilometres form the site where he had shown one for the first time. And they explicitly referred to the fact that they learnt this from their national federation that had information obtained from a foreign expert.

In terms of the diffusion study of Bryce Ryan and Neal Gross (1943) the farmers we are aiming at are innovators and early adopters. As one recalls Ryan’s and Gross’s study tracked the adoption of the new hybrid seed corn by farmers. Ryan chose hybrid corn as the focus of investigation on social factors in economic decisions. The objective was to study how an farmer’s social relationships with his neighbors influenced the individual’s decision to adopt hybrid corn. Gross, a graduate student in sociology, was hired as a research assistant on the hybrid corn diffusion project. Ryan and Gross selected two small communities located west of , and proceeded to interview all of the farmers living there.

Over the course of the study period 1928-1941, all but two of the 259 farmers studied had adopted the new hybrid corn. When plotted cumulatively on a year-by-year basis, the adoption rate formed an S-shape curve over time. After the first five years, by 1933, only five percent of the farmers had adopted the new corn. By 1936, 40 percent had decided to adopt the hybrid corn. Then the rate of adoption leveled off as fewer and fewer farmers remained to adopt the new seed.

Farmers were assigned to categories based on when they adopted the new seed. The five segments of farmers who adopted the hybrid corn seed, or adopter categories, and their percentages relative to the study group are:

(1) innovators (5%),
(2) early adopters (10%),
(3) early majority (35%),
(4) late majority (35%), and
(5) laggards (15%).

Compared to later adopters (Early Adopters Early Majority, Late Majority, Laggards) Innovators had larger-sized farms, higher incomes, and more years of formal education. The innovators were judged to be more cosmopolitan, as measured by their number of trips to Des Moines (’s largest city, located about seventy-five miles away). This first group of farmers, most importantly, had the ability to both understand and apply complex technical knowledge, and to cope with a high degree of uncertainty about new ideas or technology.

In other words, the innovator group was capable of making a decision based solely on information. This group also had the financial means to be able to take a risk. In this respect, the categories of adopter groups in the Diffusion Model can be correlated to their financial means and tolerance to risk.

The second group, the Early Adopters, were typically respected members of the rural community and often were in dual roles as both farmers and role models in the banking, real estate, government, educational or religious institutions of the area. This group was highly successful and had the highest degree of opinion leadership and peer respect among all the categories in the Ryan and Gross study.

We think that we recruit farmers for international exchanges from these groups of early adaptors and innovators, giving their exposure to international contacts them the cosmopolitan outlook. But more important we think that by recruiting them from farmers' organizations, being most of them respected farm leaders, they have that frequent interaction with other farmers that spurs of diffusion to the early majority.

The third group, the Early Majority, was characterized by frequent social interaction with their peers but seldom had positions of opinion leadership. This group tended to undergo considerable deliberation in every decision.

The Late Majority group represented fully one-third of the total population studied and, while generally skeptical and cautious, was most susceptible to the influence of peer pressure. This group was often guided by economic necessity since its members were among the less financially successful in the community.

The final group, the Laggards, generally had no opinion leadership in the community, tended to be somewhat socially isolated, was suspicious of new ideas and had limited financial resources. This group is characterized by the over-my-dead-body philosophy of change.

The typical farmer in the Bryan-Gross study moved slowly from awareness and knowledge of the innovation to adoption despite the obvious, objective advantage of the new corn over the open-pollinated variety it was adopted to replace. The innovation-decision period from first knowledge to the adoption decision averaged about nine years for all respondents in spite of the tremendously successful results of farmers who first adopted the new seed. In addition, the average respondent took three or four years after planting his first hybrid seed, usually on a small trial plot, before deciding to plant 100 percent of his corn acreage in hybrid varieties.

The critical insight in Ryan and Gross’s study is that only the first group, the Innovators, based their decision to adopt the new corn on information. The middle groups of adopters decided to try the new technology based on the opinion or experience of others. The latest groups to adopt the hybrid corn seed were motivated more by momentum than information or opinion.

Organization of farmers, especially in the kind of open associations with members who have multi-stranded realtions becasue they participate in a variety of gremia, influences -as we suppose- especially the middle groups.
(Source: http://www.hgs.org/en/art/?1019 and Blokland, 2007 'peer-to-peer exchanges and economic development. forthcoming)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Rice harvest in Vietnam

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Challenges for farmers in Vietnam: VNFU & exports

Agriterra’s –and later AgriCord’s involvement with Vietnam was due to liaison officer Rik Delnoye who was previously stationed in that country. In a first mission in 2001, he assessed the possibilities and priorities for establishing more structural collaboration between the Vietnam National Farmers Union (VNFU), Agriterra and its supporting Dutch farmers’ organisations. He linked this prospection visit to a three-days workshop organised by the Vietnam Cooperative Alliance and the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA). This worldwide alliance of cooperative enterprise implemented a project (financially supported by Agriterra) in six Asian countries in order to strengthening the cooperative movements.

VNFU claims 8 million members and is a mass organization of the ruling communist party. Its structures go up from cooperative and community level up to the national level. In 2003 Agriterra started to financially support six provincial level farmers associations of the VNFU, using the network of organised farmers and selected outstanding farmers to promote improved agricultural systems and techniques. The activities are linked to the national policy of reforming the agricultural sector by stepwise integration in the market economy. Model farms demonstrate the advantages of new agricultural techniques to the network of outstanding farmers. Farmer-to-farmer extension is used to disseminate knowledge and skills, including post-harvest treatment and marketing issues. Not by the establishment of parallel extension programmes, but by benefiting from the improved farmer organisation and linking them to existing extension services.

In that same year the president of VNFU participated in the festivities of the V anniversary of Agriterra, meeting farm leaders from all over world in an AgriCord patronized seminar From Plunder to Economic Democratization. His plea was in favour of lowering trade barriers to European, Oceanic and North-American markets.

Trade issues came high on the agenda in 2003, mainly due the development and trade agenda of WTO. A consortium of Development organisations SNV, Oxfam, Agriterra informed the Vietnamese VNFU and women’s organisation VUSTA in workshop ‘WTO , Food security and Poverty Alleviation’ about the challenges and hazards of the upcoming WTO membership of Vietnam. LTO director Mrs. Ria van Rossum reflected the standpoints and experiences towards the WTO from a Dutch (& European) farmers view.

Later that year, the nascent Asian Farmers Alliance organized its sub-regional consultation for the Mekong cluster in Thailand with farmers representatives of five countries, including 16 vietnamese farm leaders to formulate a joint Asian Peasant Agenda on Sustainable Rural Development. The agenda of the AFA Executive commission meeting linked to the consultation addressed the further strengthening of the organisational structure of AFA and preparations for the AFA General Assembly to be held early 2004 in Indonesia. Regretfully, the national direction of party objected full AFA membership to VNFU.
With support of AgriCord VNFU started in 2004 an extension of the agricultural technology improvement and extension programme. In six provinces model farms and demonstration plots were established. Crops are selected after research into profitability and include aqua-culture, livestock, agriculture, agro-forestry and floriculture. The activities are seen as an integral part of the national policy to restructure agricultural production and integrate it into the world market.


Evidence demonstrate that in aquaculture good results were realized as in shrimps in Quang Binh Province income of farmers increased tenfold and with turtles in Hang Giang Province even 15 times. Yet, also became notably urgent the introduction of measures to guarantee sustainability of the cultures. Vietnam was at that point, as was also the conclusion of the referred workshop, not yet prepared to compete in international markets due to their lack of knowledge and skills to produce in line with international food safety and quality standards.

A new project enhances the capacities and skills of farmers to maintain international food safety and quality standards by formulating and setting out standard protocols for safe and high quality food production. At the same time testing facilities (for crop residues) were established and made available for farmers. These activities were especially focussing horticultural products. Agriterra launched a technical support mission for training about quality and safety regulations (EurepGAP, MRLs etc.), to indentify promising product-market combinations.

By then, and we are now talking 2006, Agriterra also made progress on its other front in Vietnam with the ICA Asia Chapter. The all-Asia Conference on the role of cooperatives in Poverty Alleviation, hosted by the Viet Nam Cooperative Alliance (VCA) stressed the role of cooperatives in implementing the Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRSPs). Agriterra supports VCA in the implementation of an enabling legal environment for the development and operation of (agro-) cooperative enterprises.
Vietnam shows a case of a powerful farmers organization that efficiently builds new services and tries to catch up with globalization following national policies. The lack of two-way communication in VNFU is due to the overall political setting in the country. Following previous experiences in Nicaragua, a political machine of this kind can eventually be turned into a powerful instrument for services to farmers, access to agricultural inputs and credit covering all remote corners of the country. When obeying Lenin’s democratic centralism, it could even turn into a voice and advocate of true farmers interests. The opportunity arises to gradually transform VNFU in a genuine spokesman of farmer interests. This a long way to go, but worth the effort.